“An unforgettable start to a new series. Atmospheric, suspenseful and crackling with tension and electric chemistry, Tattered Stars is a must read romance for 2022!” —Samantha Young, New York Times bestselling author
Tattered Stars, a beautiful and moving romantic suspense and first book in the Tattered & Torn series from bestselling author Catherine Cowles is coming February 1st and we have the first look!
Be brave. For sixty seconds. Twenty breaths. I could do anything for twenty ins and outs. The springs on my mattress squeaked as I swung my legs over the side of my bed. I froze. And listened.
There were lots of things I hated about growing up here. But there were things I loved, too. Things I was grateful for. Like how attuned I was to every whisper. I’d know in an instant if a sound didn’t belong.
I waited. Heard the screen door rattle in the wind. The call of an owl. Even the hum of our refrigerator in the kitchen. I didn’t hear my brother or dad. Mom had been gone for days, helping a baby come into the world. But I wished for her now. She was the only one who had a chance of stopping the craziness. But she wasn’t here, and I wasn’t sure what tomorrow would bring.
I pushed to my feet, praying my mattress would stay quiet and not give me away. The springs didn’t betray me again. I moved to my closet, careful to avoid any floorboards that creaked. Pulling a pair of worn jeans from a shelf, I slipped them on. I tugged the nightgown over my head and reached for a t-shirt.
The breeze picked up through my open window. It had been unbearably hot today but just a few hours into the night and a chill had settled. I grabbed a flannel just in case. Slipping on socks, I picked up my boots. I knew better than to put hard soles on this floor.
My dad had taught me how to move without a sound to avoid any kind of predator. And tonight, I was thankful for each and every lesson—even the ones where I’d had to roll in mud to disguise myself.
I reached for the doorknob, but my hand stilled on the metal. I could just go back to bed. Forget my attempt at being brave and wait for Mom to come home. To bring my dad down from his paranoid state where everyone was the enemy and we were at risk from it all—the government, neighbors, even my teachers.
I’d watched as our lives got smaller and smaller, with fewer and fewer people to trust. I didn’t remember a lot of the normal. But I remembered some. The second grade and Miss Christie before Dad had pulled Ian and me out of school. Visiting Mom’s family in Portland before he’d decided they were heathens. The town fair before he became convinced that it was evil.
I closed my eyes and turned the knob. Stepping out into the hall, I listened again. Nothing out of place. I created a dance to avoid every problematic board in my path, sometimes tiptoeing, other times stretching my legs to the point I worried I’d tip over.
Finally, I reached the front door. Our old dog, Bruiser, raised his head, but I held a single finger to my lips, begging for silence. Feeding him table scraps must’ve paid off because he lay back down and let out a soft snore.
I eased open the door and stepped through to the first true rebellion I’d ever embarked on. One that might make me like my older sister—an outcast. I closed the door behind me with a soft snick, but it was deafening to my ears, echoing off the mountain itself. I let the screen door fall closed, too, only a small rattle in my wake.
I hopped over the porch steps entirely, knowing each and every one would give me away. I landed with an oomph but held in my cry of pain. Slipping on my boots, I glanced at the shed in the distance. The motion lights on its exterior meant I didn’t dare try for it. So, I started for the barn instead.
One of the doors was open a hair to let some of the night air in, and I pulled it a bit more, just wide enough so Storm and I had a path. As I moved down the aisle, our few horses nickered or lifted their heads to see who was about. I paused at the tack room, picked up a bridle, and then continued until I reached Storm’s stall.
She must have scented me coming because her head was already over the stall door. I gave her nose a rub and then urged her back. “Gotta let me in.” She did as I asked, and I left the door open, knowing she wasn’t going anywhere…not without me.
I eased the bridle over her head, and she accepted the bit without complaint. “What do you say we go for a ride?” She seemed to nod her head in agreement. It would’ve been so much simpler if we were just taking off for one of our afternoon adventures, exploring the mountains.
I led her out of the stall and towards the exit. We made our way out, and I hoisted myself onto the fence so I could climb onto her back. She stayed steady as I threw a leg over and adjusted my grip on the reins. “Nice and easy.”
I guided her down the path that stayed far away from the house. One that led to the mountain switchbacks. I glanced up at the sky, thanking the heavens for a nearly full moon. I just prayed my sense of direction was as good as I thought.
I’d never ridden all the way to town before. It was at least fifteen miles, and several paths ebbed and flowed. But I knew where I was headed. I’d memorized these mountains every day of my life. They were both a refuge and a prison. Solace and tormentor.
Tonight, they were on my side. Each trail’s crossroads seemed to give me the next logical step until switchbacks turned to wide, worn paths, the dirt packed by hikers and riders. Soon, I reached the road into town. I stayed just off it, my heart hammering against my ribs as the forests turned to neighborhoods.
I adjusted my grip on the reins, seeking out a peek at the lake on the outskirts of town. The moon made the water almost glitter. “Just a few more minutes,” I whispered to myself. I could be brave for a little longer.
I moved Storm onto the blacktop, her hooves echoing against the buildings along Aspen Street. Every store was dark with limited streetlights so residents and visitors alike could see the stars. Normally, I loved seeing them, too, but tonight I fought a shiver. Wolf Gap felt like a ghost town.
I slowed Storm as we approached the street I knew held my next battle for bravery. I wondered if I was already past the point of no return or if I could guide Storm back up the mountain and go home. I turned her onto Spruce.
The light from a building poured out into the night. It wasn’t harsh, more like a soft beacon, guiding me home. Only if I walked inside, I had a feeling I’d never see home again. WANT MORE? Click here for the full sneak peek. >>>https://bit.ly/3KXHwMq
Be brave. Just for sixty seconds. Twenty breaths.
One night changed them both forever.
Their lives shattered, beyond repair, with jagged edges and pieces askew.
Now, Everly has a chance to make things right. To bring healing to the place where everything fell apart. But it means facing the family her father almost destroyed, and the boy with the dark eyes—now grown—who still haunts her dreams.
Just one breath away from having your life ripped out from under you.
The last thing Hayes wants is another reminder of all the ways he failed sixteen years ago. When Everly drives back into Wolf Gap, his only mission is to get her to leave. For his family’s sake, and for his own, those demons need to stay buried for good.
But everything about this woman is a surprise, from her spine of steel to the sanctuary she hopes to create with the land her mother left behind. And Hayes is powerless to stay away.
As a careful friendship sparks into something more, someone watches. And they’ll do anything to tear it all apart…
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About Catherine Cowles
Writer of words. Drinker of Diet Cokes. Lover of all things cute and furry, especially her dog. Catherine has had her nose in a book since the time she could read and finally decided to write down some of her own stories. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring her home state of Oregon, listening to true crime podcasts, or searching for her next book boyfriend.
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